The Raiders remained in the AFC West race and have every reason to be optimistic despite a two-game deficit in the standings by virtue of a convincing 28-13 road victory over the San Diego Chargers.
The Raiders swept the season series from the Chargers for the first time since 2001 and won in San Diego for the first time since 2002, their last win clinching the AFC West title en route to the conference championship.
Oakland ran right at the heart of a stout San Diego run defense, gaining 251 yards on 52 carries following a week in which coach Tom Cable promised a return to the kind of no-frills football that had the Raiders with a 5-4 record going into their bye week. Told it was the first time the Raiders had won six games since 2002, Cable said, "It's good, but we need a bunch more."
Four games remain. Oakland, 6-6, visits Jacksonville, hosts Denver and Indianapolis, then closes with what could be a single game to decide the division title against Kansas City, currently in first place at 8-4. Oakland is 4-0 in the division, having beaten all three teams (including the Chargers twice) and would likely hold any advantage in a tiebreaker.
The formula to beat the Chargers was similar to the one the Raiders used to begin their three-game win streak. Take advantage of turnovers, get off to a fast start, then run their opponent into the ground. The Raiders recovered a muffed punt by Darren Sproles, with Hiram Eugene recovering, and then got a Michael Huff interception against Philip Rivers. Both turnovers were turned into touchdowns, and both times the Raiders converted fourth-and-1 plays to capitalize on the short-field scores. The first touchdown came on a 9-yard bootleg by quarterback Jason Campbell, with the entire San Diego defense biting on the fake. The next score was on a 4-yard pass from Campbell to Jacoby Ford.
Campbell, who seemed more relaxed now that Bruce Gradkowski is out of the picture with a separated shoulder and on injured reserve, completed 10 of 16 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for 37 yards.
The Raiders kept the ball for more than 38 minutes, shut off the Chargers' run and forced Philip Rivers into a 23-for-38 performance that gained 280 yards but also had four sacks, several pressures and a lot of missed receivers.
BY THE NUMBERS: Running back Darren McFadden has gained 870 yards in 10 games this season. That's more than the 856 he gained during his first two years in the league that covered 25 games.
UNDER THE RADAR: Center Samson Satele had one of his best games as a Raider, effectively controlling the middle, including clearing the way for Campbell to convert a fourth-and-1 in the red zone on a 3-yard sneak. He consistently got to the second level on screen passes as well.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL PLAYER NOTES
--LB Rolando McClain, questionable with a foot injury, had seven tackles and knocked running back Darren Sproles out of the game late in the first half after a short completion.
--DT Tommy Kelly had a sack to give him 6.5 for the season, a career high.
--QB Jason Campbell completed all six passes he threw to running backs Darren McFadden and Marcel Reece for 62 yards.
--WR Chaz Schilens was active and played in his first game of the season but did not catch a pass.
--FS Michael Huff had an interception and a sack.